Labour now keen to rebuild trust with India, Indians in UK
While the ministry of external affairs in New Delhi rejected the resolution, calling it “uninformed and unfounded”, the party raised hackles in the UK before the December election when some of its members were perceived as supporting violence before the Indian high commission.Updated: Apr 30, 2020, 19:37 IST
Labour leader Keir Starmer on Thursday made the first moves to rebuild trust with New Delhi and the Indian diaspora by insisting that controversial issues such as Jammu and Kashmir should not be allowed to divide communities in the United Kingdom.
The Labour party under former leader Jeremy Corbyn came in for stringent criticism from large sections of the Indian community in the UK and India for passing a resolution at the party’s conference in September last that called for external i ntervention in the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.
While the ministry of external affairs in New Delhi rejected the resolution, calling it “uninformed and unfounded”, the party raised hackles in the UK before the December election when some of its members were perceived as supporting violence before the Indian high commission.
The developments had some impact on the fortunes of Labour candidates during the election, while the resolution remains part of its approach to the Kashmir dispute. Starmer’s olive branch was received with cautious optimism in Indian circles.
Starmer’s overture came following a meeting with the executive of the Labour Friends of India, a lobby group within the party, co-chaired by Rajesh Agarwal, deputy mayor of London. The leader also promised to work towards fielding more Indian-origin candidates in elections.
Starmer said: “Britons of Indian origin contribute so much to the UK and to the Labour party. I’m committed to working closely with Labour Friends of Indian to rebuild trust with the community”.
“We must not allow issues of the sub-continent to divide communities here. Any constitutional issues in India are a matter for the Indian Parliament and Kashmir is a bilateral issue for India and Pakistan to resolve peacefully. Labour is an internationalist Party and stands for the defence of human rights everywhere”.
Starmer, who was seen as a unifying candidate during the party leader’s election, is due to meet the Indian high commissioner shortly. The shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy had an interaction with envoy Ruchi Ghanashyam this week.
Starmer added: “A Labour Government under my leadership will be determined to build even stronger business links with India and to co-operate on the global stage on issues such as climate change. I look forward to meeting the Indian high commissioner in due course to open a renewed dialogue between the Labour Party and the people of India.”
Traditionally the party of choice for the Indian community, Labour has been haemorrhaging support in recent elections, with many young, aspirational members gravitating towards the Conservative party, particularly since David Cameron became party leader in 2005.
Agrawal said: “I really welcome his commitment to rebuilding strong links between the Labour party and the Indian community. This has been a great start and Keir has achieved a lot in the short span of couple of weeks”.
“Labour Friends of India will work closely with him and will continue to promote UK-India ties as well as continuing to raise any issues from the community to the leadership”.